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From Joy to Misery: My Encounter with Funke Oshonaike

Most times, cub reporters and new entrants to sports journalism often find a sport, club or individual they are passionate about.

For me, it is women in sports, especially those who have struggled against all odds, obstacles and challenges in a male dominated area to make a mark.

Whether they are athletes, sports administrators, or women sports journalists, it does not matter.

As long as they are women achievers in sports, I look for articles and stories to celebrate them believing their success stories will inspire other women in the industry, especially those on the verge of calling it quit because of sexual harassment, extortion and other unreported shenanigans in sports.

It was a regular day at the office, I was busy preparing for my show and then I got called into the newsroom by my Editor. I was expecting her to ask for update on what my presentation will be, my story line and usual questions.

As I stood before her arranging my thoughts, she just told me that I am to cover the Funke Oshonaike Training Clinic & Tournament. I was elated, excited, short of words, you name it, in fact, she made my day.

It was a dream come true because Oshonaike was one of the few stars in Nigeria worth their weight in gold that I have been dreaming of meeting and writing her stories to inspire myself and others.

The ageless sports queen looks like she is not ready to slow down. At 41, she is the best in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa, younger players struggle to cope with her pace and agility.

Since Atlanta’ 96 when she made her debut at the Greatest Sports Show on Earth, the modern Olympic Games, Oshonaike has been at every subsequent games including the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, making her a member of the exclusive club of athletes who have participated in six consecutive Games.

Her trophies and medals cabinet will make any athlete envious.  They include but are not limited to gold medal at 2007 Algiers, silver medals in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and team event at Maputo 2011 games.

Other honours include silver medals in mixed and team events at Brazzaville 2015 team, also medals at Algiers games and several continental and national championships.

Currently ranked number one in Africa, I was happy that a lady like me has achieved so much and equally delightful for me is that I will soon meet her and hear her rise and rise story directly from her.

Then came Sunday February 26, 2017, I got set for the clinic and went straight to the National Stadium NTTF Training Centre.

Heat of the weather welcomed me to the hall that was so hot and I was thinking why are they using such a place to train children, I didn’t have a premonition that something hotter awaits me.

The youth players were sweating profusely as they receive coaching tutorials from Oshonaike who was personally training the kids on the rudiments of table tennis.

I sat quietly in corner while I observed the environment.

Finally, it was time to have the much anticipated interview with Oshonaike.

She reluctantly agreed to be interviewed, later she called it off. Initially, I thought it was heat and task of training that took its toll on her but during the one week that I attended the clinic, I noticed that she has a disdain for journalists, irrespective of gender.

On the final day of the clinic, my last request for an interview was the last straw for me.

I was totally shocked by her attitude. A harmless request for an interview brought out the beast in her. She started shouting and screaming that I’m disturbing her; a colleague of mine had to plead with her to grant me the interview. She said many unprintable words.

I am yet to recover from the shock more than a month after the ugly incident. What I thought will be a blissful week of covering one of my idols turned to my being treated shabbily, not shown any  respect,  emotionally raped and mistreated, she couldn’t even say thank you for coming…….I regretted going for her event and swore I would never go for any event with her name on it again.

Her trainees also seem to have learned from the best as they behave rudely and lacked respect.

I have heard stories of star athletes being rude to journalists, especially in Nigeria, but the baptism of fire is still hard to take.

Maybe if it had been a man or someone I didn’t idolize or see as a role model, I would have shrugged it off as one of those things but from a lady and an idol, it was hard to take.

Oshonaike and her likes must be told that nothing, including stardom, last forever.

The Greatest of All Times, Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay was a young athlete going to the Rome 1960 Olympic Games when he was informed that his idol and American hero then Sugar Ray Robinson was at Theresa Hotel in Harlem, New York.

Ali rushed to the hotel to get an autograph from his idol but he was refused an autograph by Sugar Ray Robinson.

When Ali became the King of the World, he vowed never to deny an autograph request, and he never did.

Even after he had advanced Parkinson disease, Ali never stopped signing autographs.

Oshonaike and her likes must learn from Ali’s example. If the Greatest of All Time can stay humble, every other person should.

NORA ENEM hails from Anambra state and is a graduate of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology where she studied Business Management. She currently works with Radio Nigeria as a Sports caster and reporter

 

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